We stayed in the room all morning, getting caught up on internet and sorting through photos. You have to take a down day every now and again, and we were certainly due for one. But, we had to get to the train station to buy our tickets for Friday so we were going to have to get out and do that.
Besides, we just can't sit around doing nothing!
Here's our room. Not bad, but it's in a very old riad and the family who lives here make a lot of noise. People coming and going all the time, and children coughing and crying. Not bad for a last minute decision, and at least the girl we deal with is always smiling and really pleasant. But not great. The plumbing backed up the first night and caused an awful smell in the bathroom. She moved us to a different room for the second night.
We were staying inside the medina (the old central part of the city) but close to one of the gates. So it was only a few steps outside to the modern part of the city where it seems like you're instantly going from the Arabian nights to the big city metropolis. Marrakech is truly a city of contrasts.
It was a 2 km (1.6 mile) walk to the train station.
Ruth, and the modern train station.
Very nice train station, which opened it's doors in 2008. Marrakesh also has a new and very modern airport terminal.
And the new part of the city also has all of the American franchises...McDonalds, KFC, etc.
Mural, across from the train station. The building on the right is the theater.
We went in and bought our tickets. We decided to go to Rabat, the capital city of Morocco. It's located on the Atlantic coast, about an hour north of Casablanca. For some reason it's not a popular tourist destination, and yet there seems to be enough worth seeing. Casablanca sounds very romantic, but we hear it's not. It's just a big dirty industrial city. So we're going to stay on the train and go right though Casablanca on our way to Rabat.
We bought second class tickets at 127 dirhams ($17.75 CAD, $$13.20 USD) each. There are no seat assignments in second class. It's first come first served, and you might end up standing. We'll have to arrive early! Reserved seating in first class would have been only about 30% more, but we weren't sure we could justify the difference.
We left the station and headed through to the resort area where there is a big shopping mall and a Carrefour grocery store. We wanted to pick up a bunch of snacks that we could eat on the train for the five hour journey.
The resorts are popular with many tourists coming from France.
Lots of parks and green space along this road.
We picked up our supplies at the Carrefour, and then continued on a circular route back to the old town. Ruth wanted to see one of the original entrance gates to the medina.
Also, we tried to go into the expensive La Mamounia Hotel. This is where Winston Churchill liked to spend his time while in Morocco. Unfortunately, we were told we couldn't enter while wearing sandals! Strange. Do the rich people not wear sandals?
Bab Agnaou Gate, built in the 12th century.
We stopped for a ginger juice.
Ginger Juice menu. 10 dirhams is just over $1 USD.
Back at the room, we relaxed for a couple of hours and then decided to go out for something to eat. We had not yet eaten at the main street food market in the central square. It's a popular spot for both tourists and locals alike. But, it was a bit of a walk so if we saw something on the way there we would stop.
But we didn't see anything suitable. Soon, we were in the big, very busy Jemaa el-Fnaa square. It's such a circus. You really can't describe it... it's something you have to see for yourself.
As we approached the food vendors, each stall have touts. People who do and say whatever they can to entice you to eat at their particular stand. It's almost a little intimidating, and difficult to decide which stall might be better than the next. We did find the the prices at the first stalls were more expensive than the ones as you got further in.
We quickly tired of trying to make our way through, and accepted one guy's persistent offer to sit.
This smile would soon be gone.
Notice the guy on the right? The locals do not like being included in our pictures!
Nothing was said, but I did put the camera away after that.
The waiter came over and he was very impatient. Almost like he was trying to rush us to order. He wasn't the friendliest type, and we really should have left right then. But we didn't. We ordered a chicken tagine for 40 dirhams, which was a reasonable price. And a mixed meat brochette for 70 dirhams, which was a little pricey for street food, but we figured we'd treat ourselves. And a mixed salad for 10 dirhams, which was cheap, but their mixed salads are often just lettuce, onion, and tomato. Heavy on the tomato. Oh, and a bottle of water for 10 dirhams which is a little on the high side, but not bad. So our total bill should have been 130 dirhams ($18.20 CAD, $13.50 USD).
As he finished scribbling the order, I repeated it to him to be sure he got it right. It all happened very fast, and at the end he said what I understood to be "do you want some peppers and vegetables with your tagine?". I figured that they usually come that way anyhow, so I said yes.
They then brought bread, and Ruth quickly said no, and sent it back.
They then brought olives, and some kid of sauce, and again we said no, and they took it back.
Our meals finally arrived. The tagine looked fine, and the brochette looked fine, but we had only ordered one mixed salad. Instead, we had two plates of something else. But, it was mostly vegetables, so I figured this was the mixed salad split onto two plates? Ruth thought we should say something, but for whatever reason I said that maybe it's the mixed salad?
The bottle of water never showed up, and we never saw our waiter again for the rest of the meal. When it came time to pay the bill, I flagged down another guy and out of nowhere, our waiter appeared.
He scribbled some numbers down on a plain piece of paper, and the total came to 200 dirhams ($28 CAD, $21 USD).
We started arguing, and he immediately got aggressive. It was not a good scene. Ruth was upset, and when she started arguing with him it just made him more angry. I think there were some cultural problems going on here and that Moroccan guy just didn't want anything to do with a tourist woman. I think he said some swear words in Arabic! And people were starting to stare. Another guy came over and tried to smooth things over. By this time, Ruth had stormed away in tears.
I argued some more, but ended up handing over the 200 dirham. It simply wasn't worth it.
After the fact, we did some research on this Marrakech street food market. It seems that almost every second person gets ripped off at this place. There are about 100 food stalls, and there are lots of bad reviews on tripadvisor about people who went through the exact same thing we did. Normally, we do check tripadvisor reviews in advance, but the street market was so busy, and with so many locals and tourists alike that we figured it must be a good deal.
Avoid the Marrakesh street food market! You will get a better meal at a cheaper price at a restaurant. By the way, those olives and bread they tried to bring? They also are way overpriced and will be added to your order whether you asked for them or not!
What a circus. Have I said that already??
Marrakesh is a very interesting place to visit. We consider ourselves to be pretty savvy travelers, but I think that it is not a matter of if you will get ripped off...it's a matter of when, and by how much! From a violence perspective, we still think it's totally safe. Even the restaurant waiter, I don't think there would have been any physical violence...just lots of loud shouting and angry gesturing. But it all takes a toll on you, and while Marrakesh is totally worth visiting, it's also a very hard city to take everything in.
Obviously if you have a full time guide with you, you are less likely to encounter these types of situations. However, then you are paying your guide, aren't you? So you pay one way or the other.
Definitely a stressful and unenjoyable meal out. But, we will look back at it and laugh. Life goes on.
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